Blankets, food sent to fleeing Christians

BAGHDAD - The Iraqi government sent blankets and food Thursday to help thousands of Christians who have fled a violent campaign against them in the northern city of Mosul.

The recent killings in Mosul, widely blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq, coincided with stepped-up lobbying efforts by Christians to ensure their representation in upcoming provincial elections in the primarily Muslim country.

The president of the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani, said the omission of a minority quota in a recently passed elections law was a 'big mistake.'

Earthquake hits southern Mexico

TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico - A strong 6.5-magnitude earthquake hit the southern Mexican state of Chiapas on Thursday afternoon, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The quake struck about 13 miles from the city of Suchiate, on the Guatemalan border, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Officials said the quake hit at 1:41 p.m. and was felt in Guatemala City, 125 miles to the south, where residents ran from homes and buildings.

Emergency officials in Mexico and Guatemala said they received no immediate reports of damage or injuries, although they were still investigating.

Afghan police kills US soldier

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan policeman hurled a grenade and opened fire on a U.S. military foot patrol in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing an American soldier and raising fears that insurgents have infiltrated the police.

It was the second attack by a policeman on U.S. soldiers in eastern Afghanistan in less than a month.

Israelis kill two alleged firebombers

JERUSALEM - Israeli troops shot and killed a 21-year-old Palestinian allegedly preparing to carry out a firebomb attack in a West Bank village early Thursday. He was the third Palestinian killed by army fire in as many days.

Citing a recent wave of firebombings in the roughly 10-mile area between Jerusalem and Ramallah in the West Bank, the army has been stepping up efforts to stop them, including laying nighttime ambushes near potential targets.